Thursday, September 27, 2012

Making plans

Soon after writing the previous post, my husband and I sat down and looked at dates and realized we couldn't get him a visa to Finland as planned. Most Russians we had asked had told us it was much easier than getting into Estonia (people get a Finnish visa and use it to enter Estonia). Come to find out, a Finnish visa takes nearly a MONTH to process.

Bottom line, I still have to leave Russia with the baby on Sept. 30th, but Andrei can't go with us. We can't extend David's Russian visa, nor can we expedite a visa for Andrei to enter a neighboring country.

I have missionary friends living in Tallinn (Estonia) currently, and the wife is traveling back to Tallinn from Russia on the exact date we need to leave, so we can even get a ride with her, and her family has graciously offered to help out me and David.

Other friends offered us their flat to stay in as a family, should Andrei make it into Estonia.

After making a new round of phone calls and inquiries after ruling out an Estonian visa, Andrei was able to find an acquaintance who could issue him a visa to Estonia. So he's been getting the documents together and will go apply in person tomorrow.

I feel a little more confident having traveled once already with David. It's exhausting, but we'll live. Maybe we'll even have a good time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I feel a bit apprehensive about the approaching Bureaucracy Season. I have to keep telling myself that the God who got me through it before will be with me and sustain me.

Two years ago, I was battling sickness as I turned in my residency papers just in the nick of time.

One year ago, I stood in line while in the throes of morning sickness, nibbling on my crackers and hoping for a miracle.

This year, I have an infant, himself holding tourist status. I don't know how I'm going to work out standing in line for my own documents in-between feeding and caring for him. And then next year, I'll be doing it with a toddler. Each year the mountains seem too high, but now I have my little David to remind me of how a man of God defeated Goliath. I have to believe it will happen for us, too.

You can read about my journey with Russian bureaucracy in the posts mentioned below.

-The adventures began about when I started this blog back in 2007. We were required to leave the country every few months, for at least a few hours, and then come back in and re-register. At the time it seemed like such a hassle, and even a bit nerve-wracking!

-2008: Next came the new laws, requiring us to leave not for a few hours or few days, but for 3 months.

-2009: My first attempt at staying in Russia full-time was to apply for a work visa, but that fell through.

-My next solution was to come in on a student visa that fall.

-2010: While on the student visa, I applied for a residency permit.

-I got the residency permit about 10 months later.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Post-Soviet Pediatrics

I find the cultural differences in approaches to medicine so fascinating! The "common cold" argument attracts a lot of discussion, but there are other aspects, like sterilization, that are very interesting to compare. I read a book about Soviet medicine that I reviewed awhile back and it explained a LOT. Let me know if you can recommend any other sources on this topic, because I just find it interesting in general!

Meanwhile, I had a taste of culture shock taking our son to the Russian pediatrician for the first time! Here are my quick American observations: 1) They want to fix everything. 2) They don't give you a choice. 3) You have to go to see specialists for things that a general practitioner in the U.S. would take care of. 4) Private clinics like to milk all the money they can get out of you!

We went to a clinic that a friend had recommended; in fact, she even gave us a ride!

When we went through all the Russian rituals of taking off our outer clothing and putting plastic booties over our shoes, we made our way into the examination room. The doctor asked me to lay the baby on a table and then said "We're getting undressed."

To give a command, Russian sometimes uses the "we" form. In fact, this is true when talking about children in general. "We're 1 month," "We're learning how to walk," etc. Even when you have one child.

So I thought to myself, "Well, I already took off my coat, so she must be talking about the baby." And I started undressing him.

David was perfect the whole time even though he was due for a feeding. He smiled, showed off, didn't pee/poop on anyone, and then nestled into Andrei's arms and went to sleep after the examination was over.

So now for the diagnoses.

-If his feedings are taking a long time, I must "not have enough milk." I was sort of waiting for that one, but at least she didn't recommend supplementing.

-...Then we weighed him and he had gained a ton and was above average. Ha! It was interesting though that by American standards he was considered 30th percentile for weight and by European he's over average! Same with height, but he was already 80th percentile or something in the U.S.

-If we're inside too much/don't take Vitamin D we might get Rickets. The doctor told us we should be outside for 2-3 hrs each day.

-His oozing "outie" belly button is horrific and must be fixed so it looks like everyone else's. I was starting to get defensive about needing to fix an outie belly button, but the U.S. pediatrician had said it was borderline hernia. He is supposed to get more tummy time+we are supposed to buy an exercise ball and roll him on his tummy or whatever. Plus an antibiotic powder to fix the oozing.

-His cradle cap is due to Mommy's diet. What is Mommy eating? Mommy needs to go on a diet so he doesn't have any allergic reactions. Mommy needs to take some pills and powders to get rid of toxins.

-His blocked tear duct needs to be flushed out several times a day and treated with drops and massage.

-Most of these issues (outie belly button, cradle cap, tear duct) were things the American doctors had noticed, but were not alarmed about. They had said to give it time. And most of the books I'd read about them said they were perfectly normal and would be "gone by the end of the first year." But Russian doctors seem to be more proactive. If you have a cold, you don't "let it run its course." You gargle and wash and drink and dab and swab, etc.

-Visits to the neurologist, orthopedist, and oculist are in order.

-He needs to be immunized against tuberculosis.

About overspecialization:

At least in Soviet times, professions fell into fairly narrow categories. It's hard explaining that I have a BA in "Russian Studies." I'm not an expert in any one area.

In my experience visiting private clinics in St. Petersburg, I kept getting referred to different specialists. The first time was several years ago when I had a persistent scratchy throat. The general practitioner didn't see anything and asked if I'd wait for the ENT specialist to arrive. When he arrived, he didn't see anything either and just prescribed some topical medications. I was charged for two separate consultations costing $100 each, very expensive for Russia, but not uncommon for paid services nowadays. Though I had signed a release form upon registration, I never imagined that I'd be charged for two separate examinations lasting about 5 minutes each!

When I went to my first prenatal visit at a different clinic, the doctor went through my whole medical history and wanted to send me to a different specialist for each symptom. I managed to keep it limited to a physical exam with the general practitioner and avoided seeing their in-house orthopedist, eye doctor, physical therapist, etc.

The pediatrician wants David to see a whole list of doctors to test for various things that can go wrong in infants. While I don't know if there's any harm in just looking, it's certainly a different way of doing things. In the U.S. it can be so hard to get in to see a specialist, while in Russia (if you have money), the general practitioner seems to act as a triage unit who sends you off to separate specialists for each symptom.

My poor husband was very brave to witness all of the procedures I went through in the U.S., which took place in a different manner than he's used to.

So here I am trying to follow all the pediatrician's instructions: a list for David (morning, afternoon, evening), and a list for me. On the plus side, it gives some structure to my day. Plus, getting out into the sunshine for daily walks isn't a bad course of treatment.

P.S. I forgot how the hide/expand feature works with my blog template. I'll have to go back and review.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Your thoughts?

So the deal with blogging is that most of my computer time nowadays happens one-handed. While I compose interesting emails and updates in my mind, they're just not getting written. I've been trying to schedule in five minutes of writing time each day just for sanity and creativity's sake, but most posts are longer than five minutes' worth anyway. "Maybe tomorrow" is my current motto.

In the meantime, feel free to post here links to any reading material or even audio content that you think I'd enjoy checking out. If you're a mother, is there anything in particular you do/did while nursing? Or was it all about the baby?

-sermon audio?
-Bible commentary?
-language learning?
-books on Kindle?

I like missionary and "mommy" blogs, but I try not to get into a comparing myself rut, so I aim to keep a good balance. Just anything uplifting that you'd like to share, I'm open to! (Ugh, just butchered the English language)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A little bit of green

Our apartment complex is fairly typical, but there's a bonus: we have some green space!

Normally a plot of land doesn't stay empty for long and in other courtyards you might see a preschool, grocery store, playground, or at least another dumpster or parking lot! I don't remember what the story is, but whatever was supposed to be built here didn't get built.

There aren't any benches, but I've come to regard that as a good thing, as they attract loiterers; smokers and the like. That means less noise as well as less trash. Here it's just people going to work or school, or simply taking a leisurely walk. The long, paved sidewalks allow for bikes, rollerblades, and strollers. While dogs bring their own messes, it's fun to see them frolicking on the grass.

Beyond the next building, there's a playground, teeming with kids and their parents and grandparents; a mother snapping at her daughter (tired after a long day?). Maybe I'll have to take my turn there one day, but for now, I'll stick to the peace and quiet!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bureaucracy Season

It’s that time of year! Actually, I will have to start thinking about my documents in October, but September is the time for David’s documents.

He is currently registered in St. Petersburg as an American tourist. Yep, it’s true. We get until the end of the month to figure out something more permanent (preferably dual citizenship) and then I will have to exit with him into another country and get a new visa for him.

My heart hurts for families who have to be separated for short or long periods of time because of citizenship issues. What if I chose Russian citizenship in order to be in Russia with my husband without threat of deportation? Then I’d need a visa to go back and visit my parents!

I have to admit that I have a little bit of a double standard in my head. I don't like having to wait in line and go through the same processes as all those other foreigners (who came here for silly reasons like making money to support their families). And my marriage is a real marriage, so shouldn't I get special rights here? Somebody? Maybe I have an American (missionary?) superiority complex.

The latest information is that David's application will have to be reviewed for 6 months, so we will indeed need to travel to another country at least once during that process in order to get him a new visa to be in Russia.

Of course we (the baby and I) could just take an extended vacation, but...I'm up for inspection in another month, so I need to be in Russia.

This is going to be interesting...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Summer of David

My husband and I were reflecting on the summer, or rather, I was probably worrying about something and he was trying to get me to see the other side.

There was soooo much I didn't get done. Printing wedding photos (from last year)? Getting together with friends? Taking the baby with us to the park on a picnic? Introducing my husband to more of my favorite hometown people and places? Blogging???

"This was the summer of David," my husband said. It wasn't the summer for any of those other things. I had to take care of my health, then we had to travel to the NICU, then we had to (try to) resolve breastfeeding issues, while tackling medical insurance details and obtaining all the papers that David would need to travel to another country at 7 weeks of life.

There was essentially one thing I could get done each day-one phone call, one form, one e-mail. Other than that, each break consisted of taking care of the basic tasks I needed for survival: This is the break when I eat breakfast, next time I'll brush my teeth and get dressed, maybe after the next feeding I'll have lunch...oops, it's 5pm and the business day is over.

Another thing that happened was all of the siblings gathering for the first time in several years. At my wedding last year we were missing Nastia and Masha, but they made it this time. So David got to meet all of his aunts and uncles and cousins.

My older sister with the "twins"
In addition, David's little cousin Alexander made a surprise early entrance (at 9 pounds, 9 ounces) less than a week before our departure, so we got to meet this new precious blessing!

June 2022

So, we are 4 months into what's happening in our part of the world...though, of course, we live pretty far from the border!   Currently:...